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the case of the mysterious missing sound

A few months ago, I switched to Verizon FiOS TV, using two CableCARDs in my S3 Tivo. Mostly just because it was an option, and the FiOS service was at least $10 less than my other option, Comcast. Sorry, Comcast, competition prevails! Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with this setup.

However, I have this strange problem: two channels in my lineup don’t have any sound. They look OK, but no audio, ever. Now digital cable in general, and FiOS is no exception, comes with so damn many channels that there is a significant chance that these two channels might go completely unwatched, thus, no problem. And, in fact, this is largely the case. However, it turns out that one of these channels, there are basketball games that I want to watch. Of course, sound is not strictly necessary for watching a basketball game, and, sometimes, is a hinderance. Nevertheless, it sort of bugged me that I couldn’t, even if I wanted to, listen to the audio. Enough of the mystery: the two channels (for me) are Comcast SportsNet DC (CSNDC) and Mid-Atlantic Sports Net (MASN). They are consecutive, and, suspiciously, both channels from a different cable operator (Comcast).

So, I called FiOS tech support. The friendly tech on the other end of the line tried resetting my CableCARDs (which also apparently had the strange side-effect of disconnecting my phone call), but nothing changed. After some more internal kibitzing, she decides to send a tech out my way the next day (that being MLK day). I agree to meet the tech in the afternoon. The idea is that CableCARDs are so weird and crappy, that this might be because of bad cards. This seemed unlikely to me, since both cards exhibited the problem. What are the chances that two cards fail in the exact same bizarre way? Nonetheless, I was game.

The tech, Mike, is basically on time, and pretty friendly and helpful. He swaps out my cards, and we spend a terribly long time on the phone getting a remote tech to activate the cards. Eventually, this gets done, but: no dice. No surprise there, but what now? Mike calls in to see if they can test this in the CO – Nope, no S3 Tivo there (yet, I think). Eventually the remote FiOS people blame the Tivo. Mike leaves promising to look into it further. After he leaves, I call Tivo (I wanted to confirm my service level anyway), and report the problem. The Tivo support person has never ever heard of this problem, but promises to move it up the chain. The next day (this would be…yesterday), Tivo tech support calls me and own up to the problem. It actually is a Tivo problem, that, reportedly, will be addressed in the next software update. No promises on when that will be, however. I am so amazed by the call from Tivo, that I save the voicemail indefinitely.

Written on Jan 18, 2007.

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